Move over pumpkin spice, peppermint is having a moment. Even though the weather may not indicate it just yet, winter is coming, and as fall wanes, we say goodbye to the familiar tastes of the season. While we’ll miss creamy butternut squash soups, hot apple cider donuts, and pumpkin…everything, their departure makes way for all the festive flavors of the colder months. Popping up on menus once again are cranberry, gingerbread, eggnog, and — perhaps winter’s most iconic flavor — peppermint. Peppermint evokes a sense of nostalgia for holiday traditions — trimming the tree to Christmas tunes, wrapping presents by a fragrant fire, and our favorite, sitting down to a deliciously restorative meal in the midst of the holiday madness. Book a table and order one of these invigoratingly delicious peppermint desserts. From the beloved classics to the distinctly imaginative, each one will put you in the holiday spirit.
Péché, Austin, Texas
Péché translates to “sin” in French, and while you could opt for a lighter dish like Kale and Roasted Vegetable salad, why not let the restaurant live up to its name by indulging in sinfully rich Housemade Pappardelle with Texas Wild Boar or a Braised Short Ribs with Duck Fat Mashed Potatoes? Either way, save room for pastry chef Yolanda Diaz’s impressive Bûche de Noël. Made from scratch, her traditional French dessert is a Swiss chocolate roll plated with peppermint bark, (almost) too-adorable-to-eat mushroom meringues, chocolate soil, and a scoop of housemade chocolate chip peppermint ice cream. It would be a sin not to order this heavenly dessert.
Siena Tavern, Chicago, Illinois
Gelato in the winter doesn’t sound crazy when it’s of the Peppermint Brownie variety. Fabio Viviani’s urbane Italian eatery, which features housemade pastas, crispy pizzas, and a mozzarella bar, offers the seasonally apropos dessert this December. The brainchild of Siena Tavern’s pastry chef Amy Arnold, crushed candy canes, Rumplemintz, and double chocolate brownie bites are swirled into a peppermint gelato base for a bracing brownie sundae in a scoop. Order a post-pizza dish, or opt for a flight of three, paired with cannoli and pumpkin pecan flavors.
10 Arts Bistro, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Enjoy the flavor of the season in one (or more!) of many forms at the Ritz Carlton’s predictably elegant restaurant. For a whimsical treat, Hot Chocolate service is on offer with enhancements such as marshmallows and crushed candy canes. Add a “cookie jar” for a sample of assorted holiday cookies, including pastry chef Stephen Wilson’s handmade peppermint meringues. Wilson is also whipping up Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream and Yule Logs for their festive holiday brunch, starting at 11AM on Christmas Day.
Presidio Social Club, San Francisco, California
Comfort foods have a place at the table any time of the year, but herb-roasted chicken, mac and cheese, and meatloaf at this San Francisco “club without the dues” are particularly perfect on winter’s dark, chilly evenings. The comforting options extend to bar director Maureen Donegan’s Hot Cocktail List, featuring warming quaffs like Hot Buttered Rum, Caffè Sambuca, or — for a true dose of holiday spirit — a Hot Mint Chocolate. Mixed with housemade hot cocoa and Bracamenta then topped with fresh whipped cream, this boozy version of a childhood favorite will inject the meal with a little extra good cheer. (If you prefer your dessert in cake form, order one of pastry chef Rene Cruz’s Chocolate Peppermint Cakes to go. The only downside is that you’ll probably be expected to share.)
Bestia, Los Angeles, California
Genevieve Gergis is one half of the husband and wife team behind LA’s Bestia. (Her husband, chef Ori Menashe, dishes out rustic Italian fare in the form of house-cured charcuterie and made-from-scratch pizza and pasta.) A self-taught pastry chef, Gergis’s own sweet tooth inspired her to learn to bake, and the fruits (and cakes, chocolates, and donuts!) of her labor are showcased with desserts like Pink Lady Apple & Candied Quince Crostata and Chocolate Budino Tart. This season, sample her handiwork and bring a touch of holiday whimsy to the table with the housemade Candy Cane Ice Cream with a “Cinna’man” and Whole Wheat Butter Cookie.
Weights + Measures, Houston, Texas
Whether you visit this relaxed neighborhood spot for brunch, lunch, or dinner, you can and should order a Peppermint Cheesecake Brownie, iced in rich chocolate ganache and sprinkled with flakes of candy cane. If you’re wondering, brunch dessert is real, though we’d recommend starting with one of their daily omelettes or Mushroom Toast (avocado toast’s earthier cousin), and save the Peanut Butter with Nutella, Banana, Bacon, and Fried Eggs for another visit. Or don’t, we’re not here to judge. Either way, peppermint is a welcome addition to the classic chocolate dessert this season.
Gramercy Tavern, New York, New York
For a hint of peppermint, try the Cashew, Panna Cotta, Banana Bread, Peppermint Meringue and Concord Sorbet in the dining room at this beloved NYC restaurant. The ornate plating looks like a work of modern art, but each simple element lends itself well to this altogether delicious and approachable dessert. Bonus: the restaurant is decked out in some of the city’s most magnificent holiday decor.
Fig, Charleston, South Carolina
Named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Pastry Chefs of 2013, Melanie Durant’s concise but exceptional dessert menu stays true to chef Mike Lata’s mission to offer only the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. Among the menu’s winter-inspired gems are Gingerbread Pain Perdu, Buttered Rum Cake, and Chocolate Crepes with Sweet Mint Ice Cream. Paper-thin chocolate crepes are filled with chocolate ganache (made with San Francisco’s Tcho 39% milk chocolate) and folded into perfect pillows, then drizzled with butterscotch and accompanied by a scoop of housemade sweet mint ice cream. Made with cool peppermint oil, the ice cream is a perfectly refreshing foil to the rich crepes.
Metropole, Cincinnati, Ohio
While chef Jared Bennett’s changing menu makes good use of the wood-burning fireplace at 21c Museum Hotel’s signature restaurant with dishes like Fireplace Aleppo Chicken and Fireplace Bartlett Pears with Shaved Turnips, Blood Oranges & Walnuts, it’s a Peppermint Semifreddo that’s the seasonal standout on the dessert menu. This traditional Italian sweet gets an elegant upgrade with the addition of toasted marshmallow, cocoa nib brittle, and crushed peppermints.
Bar Boulud, New York, New York
Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Lincoln Center Bistro offers classic French favorites like Croque Monsieur, Escargot, and Coq Au Vin, and traditional desserts with a twist, including the lavish Coupe Chocolat-Menthe. In this multi-dimensional take on the holiday flavor, mint cremeux is layered with brownie bites, chocolate mousse, chocolate cookie crumbs, crème chantilly, and housemade mint chip ice and finished with chocolate deco and silver leaf. Also, this season, the restaurant hosts a Christmas Eve prix-fixe dinner when guests can (read: must) choose between three delightfully distinctive versions of Bûche de Noël for dessert, including Mocha with crème fraiche ice cream, Rose-Pistachio with pistachio-black cherry ice cream, and Hazelnut with Speculoos Ice Cream. Making that decision will be nothing short of a Christmas Miracle.
Regan Stephens lives in Brooklyn, New York, and when she’s not writing about food or beer, you might find her taking in all the great things about the city (restaurants, museums, plays!), reading on her Kindle, or eating ice cream. Probably the last thing. Say hi on twitter @reganstephens.